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Wales Rally GB - Pre-event press conference

14 November 2013

Present: Robert Kubica (Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team), Thierry Neuville (Qatar World Rally Team), Malcolm Wilson (M-Sport) and Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Motorsport).


Press conference


Q:
Robert, after a successful year in WRC 2 and a Championship title under your belt, we now see you switch to a WRC car. How has preparation gone and how much are you looking forward to the experience?

Robert Kubica:
It's a bit different compared to the RRC I have been used to, but the biggest task is not really the car. The rally is a fantastic rally, but it's very difficult to judge the grip level and read the road. There are a lot of places where there is a sudden grip loss and surface change. But the biggest difficulty is that I had to change co-driver. I am going with Michele Ferrara and I have to use Italian notes – he doesn't speak Polish. It's not easy after one year with somebody in the car speaking Polish and sometimes it happens on the recce – I was asking something [to Ferrara] in Polish. I have to control myself. Pace notes have to go through the mind very quickly and without being translated. This is not ideal. There are many new things for me and Michele: a new car, new system, we never raced together – but we have one mode here and that is to gain experience and try to learn as much as I can.

Q:
Are you feeling any pressure ahead of this event? How was the pre-event test?

Robert Kubica:
I try to do my best, this doesn't mean I try to drive as fast as I can, it means to learn and prepare as much as I can, but I got short notice – it was only eight days before the test and only 11 days before the rally starts that I have to find a new co-driver. And it's not easy to find the right person. I believe Michele is the right person. There are a lot of things we need to take care of that normally happen automatically with the car and the pace notes. It's very difficult. The first loop in the night will not be easy, my confidence can only get higher and higher through the rally – at the end of the rally I hope I will be better.

Q:
What have you thought of the stages here in Wales? What will be the most difficult aspect of the rally?

Robert Kubica:
The stages are no more difficult than the others, they are all new for me this year; like every rally I discover new things and I hope I have a go in GB rally to learn as much as I can. If I am able to finish the rally then I will know much more than I do know now.

Q:
When will we have a decision on your plans for next season?

Robert Kubica:
I said I will make up my mind after GB and I will try to do that. The time is running. If I want to move forward in rallying then I have to make decisions. The loss of co-driver is not helping with this; I have to find somebody – hopefully Michele will be the right person – if I stay. But if not I can always come back where I am coming from. I think some people will make huge welcome to see me back on the track, but maybe I don't want to risk one year… next year would still be a learning process with rallies I haven't done before.

Q:
Thierry, we heard news that you were moving to Hyundai as of next season. How tough was the decision to make?

Thierry Neuville:
I am not allowed to speak until December 10, this is an agreement. The only thing I can say is that every decision is not easy to take and this one wasn't…

Q:
You have had a sensational season with Qatar M-Sport, when you look back across the season how would you describe it?

Thierry Neuville:
I knew, and we have seen in the last year that I have the speed, but the consistency and expectation wasn't there, but going in a new team this year I discover the car which suits my style and a very motivated team around me to make the car better. I have been quicker and quicker and my co-driver has done a great job. Together we have gone forward, sometimes we have the surprise to make eight rallies in a row – but it's a nice way to finish.

Q:
You are battling for second in the Championship here, what will be the strategy this weekend?

Thierry Neuville:
I want to secure second, we have done this for four or five rallies. I have to stay on the road with no retirement. It would be a shame to take more risk this weekend and possibly lose this place. I'm sure Jari-Matti [Latvala] will be on the pace and we can't go slowly – we have to calculate our result against him and I'm sure we will be close to the pace.

Q:
Can you win this rally?

Thierry Neuville:
If I could sign for victory now I would! It would be a great achievement for me and Nicolas [Gilsoul, co-driver] and the team. The last season when the team didn't win was in 2005… Yesterday, I said to Malcolm [Wilson]: “Look, if the Polo and Sebastien [Ogier] weren't there then we have some victories…” But it's always like this when you have some new drivers. I can only do my best, but I'm not sure victory is possible.

Q:
Malcolm, next season draws ever closer, how are the plans for sponsorship of the team coming along?

Malcolm Wilson:
It's not the closing date for the registration yet, that's not until December 14 – and normally in the last couple of years that's when we have been in a position. Things are progressing well, but nothing is in place yet that I can disclose. Whatever happens, we will be there as M-Sport in the World Rally Championship.

Q:
You were keen for Neuville to stay but that is not the case - what is the plan now in terms of drivers?

Malcolm Wilson:
You can imagine how we feel – the whole team. Thierry was a very late call to our team this year, but he's done an incredible job and worked so hard to achieve his results. It's full credit to him and the team and there's no question we are sad to see him leave. The one thing we hope is that he remains in the runners-up position. Look where we were 12 months ago and to come here as privateers and with a driver who has not done the full Championship before would be one of our greatest achievements. But I can understand why he's going and I respect his decision. For us with drivers, we're going to have to think outside the box. I think everybody understands that we enjoy working with younger drivers and helping them. Everybody in this room knows the drivers who are available, but I have to get in a position to bring those drivers in.

Q:
Who's on the dream list of drivers?

Malcolm Wilson:
The dream list is on this stage here, it's just a shame I don't have the money to buy them!

Q:
Last night we saw a 'show of unity' from all the manufacturers at your Happy Hour function with regard to moving forward next season. What did that all mean?

Malcolm Wilson:
There has been some confusion about the start order and we want to work with everyone, with the FIA and the Promoter to find the fair solution. We were united in the meeting last week, ourselves, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Citroen and along with Michelin. We just wanted to give our support that we are together to find a fair solution that's simple and easy to understand.

Q:
Sebastien, the driver's title came in France, the manufacturer's in Spain. It has been quite an incredible season for you - are you ready to finish the season in style?

Sebastien Ogier:
Yes, of course. It would be nice to finish the season with a victory. But I come to a rally where I have had good performances but never really been successful. It's a challenge for me. With the experience of the year, I feel more confident on the road to see and anticipate the grip – that's the problem here. The test was good and, like always, I love to drive the Polo on gravel. It's been the same in qualification this morning.

Q:
You had sunshine for the recce, how are the stages looking?

Sebastien Ogier:
When it's not raining here, you are sure it is going to rain! I never did a race in dry conditions. The test was similar conditions, but the grip was a bit higher. But in the low-grip today the car was still good. I still don't know about the position on the road – I have less than one hour to think.

Q:
What about the night stages, how difficult will they be?

Sebastien Ogier:
They could be, especially if there is some fog coming. Hopefully it won't rain so much and the visibility will stay quite clear. At night it's more difficult. This is not a condition I like, but I prove in Spain that I can be fast in these conditions. I hope it's the same tonight.

Q:
What about next year? Can you do better?

Sebastien Ogier:
You can always do better – but I would be happy to do the same. Being World Champion was my dream and my target for two years. Now I reach it, but in January everything starts from zero and you have to prove it again. I want to prove my title. I also want to say one thing about [running order] regulations, that I hope we find something clever. At the moment, I would have to say that I think it's quite stupid and it cannot be like that. It would be nice to have more competition and to reduce the gap between the best driver and the younger drivers, but you cannot do things so the best cannot win. If you have to open the road for two days in dry gravel conditions, then there is no chance to win and that's not fair – I hope we find something more clever. I will face more disadvantage next year, but it has to stay fair.


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